Press Release

Virgin Orbit to launch SITAEL satellite in ESA/ASI program

By SpaceRef Editor
August 11, 2017
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 Virgin Orbit was selected to launch a SITAEL satellite developed in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). Virgin Orbit and SITAEL signed a launch service agreement at the 31st AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellite.
With Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne, SITAEL will launch its µHETsat, a technical demonstration of a new electric propulsion system for ESA and ASI. Established in 1994 and headquartered in Mola di Bari, Italy, SITAEL is the largest privately-owned space company in Italy and provides small satellites based turn-key solutions, from mission concept to satellite in-Orbit commissioning. 
Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne is a simple, expendable, launch vehicle designed to place small satellites of up to 500 kg / 1100 lbm into a wide range of Low Earth Orbits (LEO) at an affordable price. Rather than launching from ground level, LauncherOne is carried to an altitude of approximately 35,000 feet by the 747-400 carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl.
Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said: “Opening access to space is an incredible opportunity to bring together governments around the world with commercial enterprises. Virgin Orbit is proud to apply our commercial solutions and innovation with SITAEL to support the European Space Agency and Italian Space Agency. Collaborative efforts like ours will enable cost-effective access to Low Earth Orbit missions and beyond.”
SITAEL Chief Executive Officer Nicola Zaccheo said: “As a small satellite customer, we are very excited for our innovative SITAEL technologies to get the flexibility and service of a primary payload on a dedicated small launch vehicle by Virgin Orbit. The satellite, developed in partnership with Italian Space Agency and European Space Agency, is the first all-electric micro satellite ever in space, validating both the SITAEL bus (S-75 platform) and SITAEL low power Hall Effect Thruster (HT100). SITAEL is pleased to take advantage of Virgin Orbit’s unique capabilities.”
About Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit will provide dedicated, responsive, and affordable launch services for small satellites. Founded by Sir Richard Branson and owned by the Virgin Group and Aabar Investments PJS, Virgin Orbit and its sister companies—Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company—are opening access to space to change the world for good. To launch the small satellite revolution, Virgin Orbit is developing LauncherOne, a flexible launch service for commercial and government-built satellites. LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, and will be air-launched from a dedicated 747-400 carrier aircraft capable of operating from many locations in order to best serve each customer’s needs. Virgin Orbit’s systems are currently in an advanced stage of testing, with initial orbital launches expected soon. To learn more or to apply to join Virgin Orbit’s talented and growing team, visit

SITAEL is the largest privately-owned Space Company in Italy leading the Small Satellites sector. With over 350 employees and state-of-the-art facilities, SITAEL covers all the processes needed for the Design, Development and Production of Small Satellites, Advanced Propulsion Systems, Instruments and Avionics.

Preferred partner for many stakeholders in several space missions, SITAEL joins its flexibility and deep knowledge of design with a continuous look to innovation, ensuring the highest quality attention to each project while optimizing costs and development times.  SITAEL belongs to Angel Group, an Italian holding world leader in Railways, Aerospace and Aeronautics markets. For further information visit

SpaceRef staff editor.